Creating Chemistry

One of the fastest growing segments in the aquatics industry is water park developments that utilize aquatic play features. These are designed for play and recreation with shallower depths, high-moving water velocities, aerating pumps and special effects, such as sprays, misters and waterfalls. Although some may consider these swimming-pool environments, there are unique differences in the way in which the water quality is managed.

A New Breed

Water chemistry parameters in these facilities should depend not only on bather loads, but on environmental characteristics. Leisure-rivers channel water through a series of flumes–usually narrow–and in some instances through areas covered with foliage and trees. This plant life provides algae and phosphates, which can create poor clarity as well as moss, mold and mildew within the flumes.

Wave pools create some unique challenges due to the shallow water at the entry points. Because of the high bather load and shallow water depths, the challenges to the water chemistry are maintaining water clarity and continuous feeding of sanitizer to maintain a residual. The sunlight draws the chlorine gases out of the shallow depths at a greater speed than in traditional pool environments.

Interactive play features, such as misters, sprays, water jets and sprinkling, are extremely popular attractions, and some existing pool facilities are incorporating these devices during renovation. The main concern is providing adequate hydraulics to maintain circulation through the filter systems and inducting enough sanitizer to maintain the water free of contaminants and bacteria.

Management of these aquatic play features requires a constant review of all chemical parameters. Due to the high bather loads, the aquatic operator should understand that the water must be maintained, clear and sanitary; without constant controls, the water will become cloudy and create a greater risk for recreational water illnesses. It will also make it difficult to see a bather in distress, thereby causing safety issues.

Follow The Rules

My first recommendation is to review the makeup water and determine the chemical composition. Since there is a high evaporation rate as well as splash-out occurring in these play facilities, maintaining the water level is usually done through automatic fill devices. The makeup or fill water changes the water balance, and may have an effect on the ability of the sanitizer to efficiently kill bacteria.

According to the new Aquatic Play Feature Handbook, published by the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the addition of an adequate chlorine feeder is of the utmost importance in wave pools. Chemical feed rates in traditional swimming pools are inducted at a rate of one-quarter to one pound of elemental chlorine per 1,000 gallons of pool water per day. In a large pool, such as a wave pool, this would equate to the need for chemical feed pumps that could add 350 to 500 pounds per day. The feeders should be designed to treat for the maximum bather loads. Caution: during evening hours these feeders may provide excessive residuals if not adjusted. Lowering feed rates in the evening hours will offset improper chemical additions and save operation dollars.

Automated chemical feeders should be designed to contribute the essential chemical sanitizer as well as balance chemicals to control the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness. Chemical feeder injection points should be located within the return lines at positions which do not allow interference with other chemicals. Some of these feeders have the capability to test the water and send a message to the feeder to induct more chemical to maintain water balance; therefore, the location of the probes is essential. However, these are just a few points in the circulation system. Manual testing should be done because various points within the feature will provide different test readings. More frequent testing should be done in aquatic play features than traditional pool environments. (Aquatic operators should periodically remove and clean the probes and examine for calcium/scale on the probes. Buildup on the probes may lead to an inaccurate reading, thus water balance will not be achieved.)

Swimmer Beware

Because of the heavier bather loads as well as an abundance of children playing in and around the water, the conditions are ripe for recreational water illnesses. Cryptosporidium, Giardia and E.coli 0157:H7 are the three major RWIs and occur when there is a fecal accident in the pool.

Chemical Solutions

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